• Ana Ramón • IDRA Newsletter • January 2020 •
Teacher shortages are both costly and detrimental to student learning. The Economic Policy Institute estimates that annual turnover costs $7.3 billion to $8 billion per year in the United States (2019). While the traditional university undergraduate preparation track is still the main source of educators, teachers increasingly use alternative certification programs. In Texas, these programs provided 103,536 teaching certificates in 2017-18, compared to 85,204 certificates in 2013-14. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) reports that individuals from alternative certification programs have higher employment rates than those prepared through other routes (Ramsay, 2019). Unfortunately, these programs do not always prepare teachers for serving in diverse classrooms.
To address teacher shortages in bilingual education and other programs, IDRA created an accelerated teacher certification model through multiple projects serving Texas funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Transition to Teaching initiative. Over a 15-year period, the program operated in 55 school districts across Texas and recruited and prepared over 800 recent graduates and mid-career professionals to teach in high-need areas. (IDRA, 2018)
Teacher shortages demand state-level policy solutions based on proven strategies to recruit, prepare and support teachers in shortage areas.
IDRA partnered with colleges and universities to provide professional development, in-classroom training, and mentoring to diverse groups of program participants. IDRA’s program resulted in a dramatic increase in highly-qualified and motivated teachers who, through collaboration, were prepared to teach in diverse classrooms. The lessons from this experience provide an important framework for systemic change in teacher preparation (see article on Page 3).
Teacher shortages demand state-level policy solutions based on proven strategies to recruit, prepare and support teachers in shortage areas. In the coming months, the Texas Senate Education Committee will study teacher shortages and policy recommendations that could potentially become legislation next session.
IDRA recommends the following state-level policies to recruit, prepare and retain highly-qualified educators.
1. The Texas Legislature should direct the TEA Commissioner to identify research- and evidence-based professional development that focuses on teaching asset-based, culturally-relevant curriculum in diverse classrooms and to increase access for teachers. These resources should be made available to school districts and regional education service centers. IDRA’s successful model provided both in-person and online professional development to ensure teachers understood and supported diverse classrooms of students.
2. The Texas Legislature should establish a consortium of colleges, school districts, nonprofit organizations and community-based organizations to identify research-based best practices to address teacher shortages. This research should include examination of effective teacher recruitment and preparation in collaboration with key stakeholders to generate comprehensive policies in addressing teacher shortages. IDRA’s program demonstrated that such integrated partnerships with colleges and school districts are vital to identifying the best ways to provide direct services and set policies that assist teacher candidates throughout the accelerated certification process.
3. The Texas Legislature should direct the TEA Commissioner to identify school districts with the highest teacher shortages and should allocate funding for those districts to collaborate with universities in research- and evidence-based accelerated teacher preparation programs. These collaborations should be focused on the teacher preparation program and not require schools to enter into partnerships related to the administration of a campus or the school district. Such collaborations between IDRA, colleges and school districts were critical to the success of the IDRA program. Colleges served as collaborators in instruction and coaching for program participants. To increase teacher retention, partner school districts provided placements for new teachers along with in-service training and on-site coaching (IDRA, 2018).
4. The Texas Legislature should expand mentor teacher program criteria currently in the law to promote relationships between experienced teachers designated as “mentor teachers” and students in accelerated certification programs. Mentor teachers should participate in recruiting and supporting teachers for shortage areas, including participants in accelerated certification programs.
5. The Texas Legislature should increase funding for financial assistance programs to encourage teacher certification and address shortages in critical subjects. For example, “Grow Your Own” educator programs provide tuition exemptions and financial support to students, paraprofessionals and current teachers who want to become educators or obtain additional teaching certifications (see resource Diversifying the Field Online Assistance Package). This could help incentivize individuals, rooted in communities with high shortages areas, to teach.
6. The Texas legislature should provide incentives for internet service providers to expand high-speed, reliable, affordable internet access to rural communities in order to support robust online training opportunities and online communities of practice for teachers in training.
7. The Office of the Attorney General should end Texas’ litigation seeking to invalidate Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Texas has more than 2,000 teachers with DACA. Those teachers are more likely to teach in shortage areas (Balingit, 2017).
Through these key recommendations, Texas can help address the high costs associated with the teacher shortage and the harm it brings to students’ ability to thrive in the classroom.
Balingit, M. (October 25, 2017). “As DACA winds down, 20,000 educations are in limbo,” Washington Post.
García, E., & Weiss, E. (2019). The Teacher Shortage is Real, Large and Growing, and Worse than We Thought. Washington, D.C.: Economic Policy Institute.
IDRA. (2018). IDRA Transition to Teaching Program 15-Year Synthesis. San Antonio: Intercultural Development Research Association.
Ramsay, M. (2019). Employment of Initially Certified Teachers 2014-2018. Austin, Texas: Texas Education Agency.
Texas Education Agency. (2019). Student Loan Forgiveness for Teachers: Teacher Shortage Areas, web page. Austin, Texas: TEA.
Ana Ramón is IDRA’s deputy director of advocacy. Comments and questions may be directed to her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[©2020, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the January 2020 IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]